Patagonia – Part 4

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived – Henry David Thoreau

After a quick drink we are ready to switch back to touring mode and set off for another tour. This time we are going to hike a face on the other side of the valley. Although the slope we intend to hike and ride/ski is not as steep as the previous ones, the snow should be excellent too and terrain seems to have lots of nice features to play with. We’ll see

 

The views from the top are as good as the ones from the other peaks

The rest of the team is gone. You can see their tracks on the right hand side. I don’t really care that this line is not going to be as steep as the previous ones, as I know that finding my way down through the rocks and the little gullies is going to be very good fun!

These are going to be the last few turns of the day and I know I am not going to be disappointed

Once back on the flat (I am actually on a frozen lake!) I start making my way back to the hut

It’s been a long day; it’s now time to rest and recover. Ole is somehow trying to snooze on the bench while Ivan warms up by the stove (with no fire inside yet) with his new friend on his lap

Another great night sleep in my bag. However this morning my shoulder is sore. It’s difficult to believe but even if over one year has passed since my rock climbing injury in Snowdonia, my shoulder hasn’t recovered completely yet. I look out of the window and although everything is grey and misty, we know that the clouds will leave at some point. The forecast is for another day with plenty of sunshine. I watch everybody else getting ready knowing that today my sore shoulder is not going to let me make the most of the place and conditions. I decide to stay in and not to join the rest of the crew for the first tour of the day. It’s certainly not an easy decision to make but it’s the most sensible one as I still have a few days of touring left so I don’t see the point in pushing my shoulder to the point where I will have the rest even for a longer period of time to get better

It’s only after everyone else is gone that I can truly appreciate for the first time since we got here the silence and the solitude of this special place. I sit on the bench in front of the window watching Jorge and the rest of the crew skinning across the frozen lake, heading straight to the peaks for another mission in the steeps. They inspire so much confidence! I watch them becoming smaller and smaller until they become only black dots, slowly gaining altitude on the huge mountain face. It’s funny how all these peaks look a lot smaller from here. It’s not until you are physically there skinning up that you realise how big they are

I am actually not completely alone in the hut. Sasha (I am not sure what her real name is) is here with me, warming up on the table in the morning sunshine


I knew that I could have let my shoulder rest for a morning but certainly not for the whole day; so I wait for the team and at around 2pm I set off with Jorge and Richard for a short afternoon tour to explore a portion of the valley we haven’t been in yet

 

Once at the top we enjoy the views and start getting ready to ski down. Left to right: myself, Richard and Jorge

I am on top of my line ready to drop in. Snow is excellent on this aspect too and it looks like it’s going to be another long run

I think the photo taken from the bottom gives a better idea how much fun was to ride this slope

As I settle into my sleeping bag for the night, looking out of the window I notice that the clouds are back and a few snowflakes are starting to fall. Since I was a child, I have always liked watching snow falling. Over the years I watched it from inside mountain huts, my sleeping bag inside the tent, in the middle of a forest, from inside my car and from many other places. As I watch the snow falling more heavily and more softly I think that I have always found strange how so much motion can create so little sound

A quote I have in my little notebook suddenly comes to my mind; I am going to share it with you as I am sure you are going to like it. I read it in a book a while ago, the author is Nan Shepherd, the Scottish novelist: “No one knows the mountain completely who has not slept on it. As one slips over into sleep, the mind grows limpid, the body melts and perception alone remains. These moments of quiescent perceptiveness before sleep are among the most rewarding of the day. I am emptied of preoccupation, there is nothing between me, the earth and the sky.”

Although we are supposed to stay here for another couple of days, I doubt that would be an option if the weather closes in. In the meantime though, I am going to enjoy another night up here in my warm bag

When I wake up I have the impression of being immersed in a giant grey cloud suspended in the sky. Everything is grey, quiet and soft. The wind is quickly picking up, another clear sign that the new storm if officially here which means that, sadly, our Frey hut sunny days are over and that we have to go back. So we pack our stuff and get ready to leave. As we ski down through the trees to reach the bottom of the valley we try to assess how much snow has fallen overnight, not just where we are but also higher up on the rocky ridge we are supposed to climb in order to go back to the ski resort

We reckon that skinning up and probably bootpacking for the last 50 meters or so in 30-40 cm of new snow is not exactly a wise option so we decide to take a much longer route which will take us around the mountain. Jorge is concerned as last time he found himself in a similar situation he and his group ended up walking for something like eight hours. Today we are in a much better position though as there is plenty of snow here at the bottom of the valley which means we’ll be able to progress much faster on our skis. So I quickly switch from riding to touring and we enter the forest

It turns out to be one of the most beautiful journeys through the woods of my entire life. A bit tricky at times trying to slide on my skis with skins on as the terrain between the trees is constantly changing. After about one hour we also had to cross a stream of water, luckily using a bridge!

After about two hours we reach a point where the snow wasn’t deep enough so we tie the skis to the rucksacks and walk from there

As I walk under the rain I can’t help but think about the dramatic change of conditions and scenery we have experienced since yesterday. I don’t think I ever went from riding steeps in bottomless powder and full sunshine to walk in the mud, under the rain! It’s such a contrast. No, I am not disappointed, not at all. This just shows that if you want to have a great experience around these mountains, you need to be prepared to accept very quick changes of conditions and put a lot of hard work in if necessary. I think this is one of the aspects that make Patagonia a very special and unique place

Jorge tells us that from here we are probably going to need another couple of hours. Both Richard and I are enjoying the bush walking and stream crossing, even under the rain, so we are not too worried about how much longer we are going to need. We know that the plan for the evening is a hot shower and a nice meal and that’s enough to keep us going

 

This is my last evening by the lake. One more gift from Mother Nature, a pefect light to enjoy once more the incredible calm and peaceful atmosphere of this beautiful place. Right now I would not want to be anywhere else

 

It’s now time to go back to my life in Europe. A life not necessarily changed by this experience but, as always happens after experiences like this one, most definitely enhanced and enriched by it. A BIG thank you to Jorge for showing us his beautiful backyard and sharing with us all his amazing skills: mountain guiding, rally driving, home baking .. I am already looking forward to spending some time together in Europe, touring in the mountains and surfing!

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